Saturday, December 4, 2010

Northanger Abbey (Novel)

Northanger Abbey (Novel) Release date: 1818. Author: Jane Austen. Publisher: CreateSpace (2010). ISBN: 9781453767535.

Plot summary: Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland loves reading gothic novels. Although she lives a relatively calm and humdrum life in the country, even though she has nine brothers and sisters, she likes to think of herself as a heroine in one of the novels she reads. Catherine’s life takes an exciting turn when her neighbors, the wealthy Allen family, invite her to accompany them to Bath for the winter season. While in Bath, Catherine meets the handsome Henry Tilney with whom she is immediately taken. She hopes she has made a good impression on Henry, but, much to her dismay, she doesn’t see him for several weeks. During this time, Catherine is introduced to Isabella and John Thorpe, the daughter and son of an acquaintance of Mrs. Allen. When Catherine’s oldest brother, James, arrives in Bath, the four becomes closer, and Isabella and Catherine become good friends. Soon, Henry Tilney returns to Bath with his younger sister, Eleanor and his father, the intimidating General Tilney. Catherine soon becomes friends with the charming but shy Eleanor, much to the dismay of John Thorpe who fears Henry will steal Catherine’s affections away from himself. Isabella and James soon become engaged, but it appears the couple will be forced to wait to get married until James can claim the country parson’s living his father offers him. Catherine is surprised when Isabella begins to flirt with Henry’s older brother, Captain Tilney, even in front of James. Unsure of her friend Isabella’s motives, Catherine is delighted when Eleanor invites her to stay with her and her family in their home, Northanger Abbey. Sure that the Abbey will be like those she’s read about, Catherine looks forward to dark and mysterious adventures in the Tilney’s house, and a chance to spend time with Henry. But soon Catherine will learn that not everything in life is like what’s she read in her novels.

Critical evaluation: Often overlooked in favor of Jane Austen’s other classic tales like Pride and Prejudice, Persuasion and Sense and Sensibility, Northanger Abbey is a fun, light tale about a fanciful teenaged bookworm who comes to learn that not everything in life is like the stories she’s read. Catherine Morland is a typical teenage girl, although her life takes place two centuries ago. She spends most of her time caring for her large family in their country home, but likes to imagine herself as one of the characters in the gothic novels she reads. Catherine can almost be compared to a seventeen-year-old girl of today, imagining herself as Bella Swan in the Twilight novels. She is a very endearing main character, and the reader will enjoy watching her experience the “adventures” that she so hoped to have after accompanying the Allens to spend the winter season in Bath. The character of Henry Tilney and his sister Eleanor are also very endearing. It’s clear that Henry is amused by Catherine’s fanciful but good-natured personality, and she is almost like a puppy in her enthusiasm for the gentleman. Isabella and John Thorpe prove to be interesting villains. Isabella is vivacious and almost brazen in her flirtations. Catherine is embarrassed by her friend, but also finds her interesting. John Thorpe is a typical egotistical young man, always trying to regale Catherine with tales of himself. Indeed, all the characters in the novel could easily be transposed into the modern day, which is why Northanger Abbey will be particularly appealing to teen readers. As with her other novels, Austen’s witting writing, interesting characters, and entertaining plots are why her stories have stood the test of time over the last two hundred years.

Reader's annotation: Seventeen-year-old Catherine Morland lives a pleasant but humdrum life in the country with her nine brothers and sisters. An avid reader of gothic novels, however, Catherine sees a chance for adventures like those of the heroines in her favorite stories when her neighbors, the Allens, invite her to spend the winter season with them in Bath.  
About the author: Jane Austen was born on December 16, 1775 in Steventon, England to Reverend George Austen and his wife Cassandra. Austen was the seventh child, but only the second daughter in her family. Her and her older sister, Cassandra (named after their mother), were very close as a result of being the only two girls in the family. Austen was also very close with older brother, Henry, who later served as her literary agent. In 1783, Austen and her sister were sent to boarding school where they were educated in foreign language, music and art. Upon returning from school, Jane furthered her own education through reading works from her father’s large book collection. In 1787, Austen began writing stories and poems in small notebooks. Jane would often read aloud her compositions to the rest of her family for their amusement. Although it was expected that young women would marry, Austen never did. She did, however, fall in love with family friend, Tom Lefroy, whom she was unable to marry because the match was thought impractical. Over the following years, Austen continued to work on her stories, even after her family relocated to Bath, England. In 1811, Austen’s first novel, Sense and Sensibility, was published with much success. Her second work, Pride and Prejudice was published in 1813. After publishing several more successful titles, Jane died in 1817 of illness. Through her novels, Austen stands out as an intelligent, head-strong woman from an era when women were expected to be meek. (

: Fiction/Historical

Curriculum ties:
Romantic era
Famous authors

Booktalking ideas:
Roles of women throughout history
Using fiction as a reference for real life events
Friends with ulterior motives
Extrapolating the characters to the modern day

Reading level/Interest Age:
Age 13 and up

Challenge issues:

Reasons for inclusion:
Considered a classic work of literature.  

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